Lacey Holsworth, Friend of Adreian Payne, Passes Away After Battle with Cancer

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistApril 9, 2014

EAST LANSING, MI - FEBRUARY 06:  Adreian Payne #5 of the Michigan State Spartans walks on the floor for Senior night with Lacey Holsworth, a 8-year-old from St. Johns Michigan who is battling cancer, after defeating the Iowa Hawkeyes 86-76 at the Jack T. Breslin Student Events Center on February 6, 2014 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Updates from Friday, April 18

Kellie Rowe, formerly of USA Today, provided a video on Instagram of Adreian Payne and the Michigan State Spartans honoring Lacey Holsworth with a silent dunk:

Original Text

Lacey Holsworth, the eight-year-old girl who served as a true inspiration to the Michigan State men's basketball team, passed away on Wednesday after a long bout with cancer. 

According to ESPN.com, Lacey suffered from fetal-nerve cell cancer known as neuroblastoma. Through her toughness and perseverance, she became a symbol of the Spartans' success.

Payne has released a statement on Lacey's passing, (via MLive.com):

"Words can't express how much I already miss Lacey. She is my sister, and will always be a part of my life. She taught me how to fight through everything with a smile on my face even when things were going wrong. I'm a better man because of her. She said she first liked me because of my smile, but it's her smile that made America fall in love with her. I know she's smiling and dancing in heaven right now. My princess is now an angel."

Lacey became part of the Michigan State family two years ago when she forged a bond with star forward Adreian Payne. Per Bleacher Report's Jason King, she and Payne exchanged phone numbers during a hospital visit by Michigan State players, and that led to a heartwarming friendship.

King detailed the relationship between Lacey and Payne specifically. As evidenced by this exchange following Lacey's chemotherapy treatment in November, it was almost as if Payne took on the role of a loving older sibling.

"Laaaccceeey," (Lacey's mother) Heather whispered." Adreian is here to see you. Laaaccceey, Adreian's here."

After a few moments, Lacey rolled onto her back and opened her eyes. Sure enough, standing next to her bed was Payne, his 6'10" frame nearly stretching to the ceiling as he clutched the stuffed zebra he'd brought as a gift.

Grinning, Lacey extended her arms as Payne bent down to embrace the girl he calls his "little sis."

"Superman!" she said. "You're here." 

Upon learning of Lacey's passing, King sent out a supportive message to her family as well as Payne:

Holsworth, who became known as "Princess Lacey," could often be seen in the stands cheering on Payne and the rest of the Spartans.

The team will hold a "life celebration for the young girl, according to SportsCenter:

Following Lacey's tragic passing, her family tweeted out this message and accompanying photo:

Lacey was a transcendent figure in college basketball, and her untimely death has already hit home for many.

Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free Press provides a statement from ESPN analyst Dick Vitale discussing Lacey's passing:

It inspired ESPN analyst Dick Vitale to call Lacey’s father, Matt Holsworth, and tell him he’s going to donate $250,000 in her name, with fund raising starting now at dickvitaleonline.com.

“I can’t believe it,” Vitale said of Lacey’s death in a phone interview before sobbing for several seconds. “This rips my heart out, man.”

Michigan State assistant coach Dane Fife had a firsthand look at what Lacey meant to the Spartans, and it is something that he won't soon forget:

The same is true of Michigan State guard Gary Harris, who was shocked by the news:

Even opposing coaches were well-aware of Lacey's positive impact, as Binghamton University head coach Tommy Dempsey offered his condolences:

ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas was moved by Lacey's presence as well:

Head coach Tom Izzo has made Michigan State a model college basketball program over the years on the court, but the manner in which they embraced Lacey was even more impressive.

Lacey was battling a terrible disease, but Payne and the rest of the Spartans did everything they could to bring her joy.

The entire college basketball world will continue to mourn the loss of Princess Lacey, but her everlasting impact on Michigan State basketball certainly ensures that she will be forever immortalized.

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.